A overview of the “Office suite” struggle between Microsoft and Apple from an “Apple-POV.”
Office Wars 1: Claris and the Origins of Apple’s iWork
Office Wars 2 – Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus and IBM
“I put out a new product a couple of weeks ago. This new product has so far won 16 different awards and recommendations from software download sites. Some of them even emailed me messages of encouragement such as “Great job, we’re really impressed!”. I should be delighted at this recognition of the quality of my software, except that the ’software’ doesn’t even run. This is hardly surprising when you consider that it is just a text file with the words “this program does nothing at all” repeated a few times and then renamed as an .exe.”
77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno is a piece of software that uses the screen of your TV or PC to create a constantly evolving painting. The painting is generated from hand-made slides that are randomly combined by the computer using specially developed software. The software processes the music that accompanies the paintings in a similar way so the selection of elements and their duration in the piece are arbitrarily chosen, forming a virtually infinite number of variations.
The Overall OLPC Program:
- The Real OLPC Debate: Laptop Project vs. Education Project
- Have Faith in One Laptop Per Child Miracles
- One Laptop Per Child: A Sub-Hundred Dollar Folly
- Portable Culture Machines: One Multimedia Studio Per Child
- Criticizing the One Laptop Per Child Discussion Critics
Laptop Education Models:
- Improve Test Scores? Forget OLPC, Just Teach to the Test!
- Build Schools or Buy OLPC XO Laptops?
- Other Technologies Appropriate for Children’s Education
- Laptops Better Than Books for Thai Students?
- Negroponte Shows His True Constructionist Intentions
OLPC in the USA:
- One Laptop Per Child News: Microsoft, Price, Orders, & USA
- Children’s Machine XO: Right or Wrong, Not in USA Schools
- What About One Laptop Per New Orleans Child?
- New York Times: Schools Drop One to One Laptop Programs
- Might OLPC Inspire Dell to Open Source Laptops in USA?
Sales and Implementation Progress
- OLPC Campaigns: Forget the Geeks, Think the Aunties
- The New Political Economy of One Laptop Per Child
- Presidents Loving Laptops Doesn’t Equal Ministers Buying XO’s
- An Implementation Miracle
- OLPC’s Goal: A $30 Billion Dollar Company!
Competition with Intel & Microsoft:
- How about OLPC XO and Classmate PC?
- Implementation Plan Challenge: OLPC XO vs. Classmate PC
- Red Hat + Intel = Classmate PC Over OLPC XO?
- Windows of Clarity on OLPC + XP Clarifications
- How Windows XP On OLPC XO Can Be a Good Thing
Clock-Stopping Hot Technology:
“In this article we’ll compare Six Apart and Automattic, two independent firms focused on blogging software. Most other blog platforms are owned by big companies (e.g. Google owns Blogger), so the competition between Six Apart and Automattic is intriguing. Six Apart is the firm behind Movable Type, TypePad, LiveJournal, and Vox, while Automattic is associated with WordPress.”
From Coding Horror
Rethinking Design Patterns
Many developers consider the book Design Patterns a classic.
So what’s a design pattern?
A design pattern systematically names, motivates, and explains a general design that addresses a recurring design problem in object-oriented systems. It describes the problem, the solution, when to apply the solution, and its consequences. It also gives implementation hints and examples. The solution is a general arrangement of objects and classes that solve the problem. The solution is customized and implemented to solve the problem in a particular context.
It’s certainly worthwhile for every programmer to read Design Patterns at least once, if only to learn the shared vocabulary of common patterns. But I have two specific issues with the book:
- Design patterns are a form of complexity. As with all complexity, I’d rather see developers focus on simpler solutions before going straight to a complex recipe of design patterns.
- If you find yourself frequently writing a bunch of boilerplate design pattern code to deal with a “recurring design problem”, that’s not good engineering– it’s a sign that your language is fundamentally broken.
In his presentation “Design Patterns” Aren’t, Mark Dominus says the “Design Patterns” solution is to turn the programmer into a fancy macro processor. I don’t want to put words in Mark’s mouth, but I think he agrees with at least one of my criticisms.
But Dominus also digs deeper into the source material than most. He cites Christopher Alexander’s book A Pattern Language, which was the inspiration for Design Patterns.
Dominus summarizes the book thusly:
Suppose you want to design a college campus. You must delegate some of the design to the students and professors, otherwise the Physics building won’t work well for the physics people. No architect knows enough about about what physics people need to do it all themselves. But you can’t delegate the design of every room to its occupants, because then you’ll get a giant pile of rubble. How can you distribute responsibility for design through all levels of a large hierarchy, while still maintaining consistency and harmony of overall design? This is the architectural design problem Alexander is trying to solve, but it’s also a fundamental problem of computer systems development.
That’s the key insight that drives both books. Unfortunately, Dominus believes that the Gang-of-Four version obstructs Alexander’s message, replacing actual thought and insight with a plodding, mindless, cut-and-paste code generation template mentality:
The point of the talk is this: The “design patterns” you get from the Gang-of-Four book are not the same as the idea of “design patterns” that are put forward in Alexander’s books. People say they are, but they aren’t the same thing. Alexander’s idea is a really good one, one that programmers might find useful. But very few programmers are going to find out about it, because they think they already know what it is. But they actually know this other idea which happens to go by the same name. So (once again) we need to take a fresh look at Christopher Alexander. Forget what I said about the damn iterator pattern, already.
I know it’s not technically a software development book, but consider this advice from Don Park:
If Eclipse is a boomtown which countless developers and companies continue to pour into, it now looks like LA, tiny downtown surrounded by endless expanse of suburban neighborhoods indistinguishable from each other other than by their names. Although one of the key pioneers behind Eclipse is Eric Gamma, one of the four authors of the infamous Design Patterns book, I feel that not enough attention is being paid to the original concepts that inspired the book, concepts captured in books by Christopher Alexander.
You could read Design Patterns like any number of other software developers before you. But I humbly suggest that you should go deeper and read A Pattern Language, too, because ideas are more important than code.
From Coding Horror
I bought my copy of Alan Cooper’s classic About Face in 1995. I remember poring over it, studying its excellent advice, reveling in its focus on the hot new UI paradigms standardized in Windows 95– toolbars, menus with icons, tabbed dialogs, and so forth. Seems quaint now, if not borderline obsolete, but this was 12 whole years ago. That’s almost a lifetime in computer dog-years.
I had no idea that there was a new edition of About Face until late 2003, when I saw the new cover sitting on a coworker’s desk. I rushed out to get my own copy, and I found the book much improved over the original. I love Cooper, but he can be awfully bombastic at times. Having a second author dilutes Cooper’s natural bombast and adds another viewpoint for a broader perspective. The new version was better and more up to date. My old copy was officially obsolete.
I was surprised to see a comment on my recommended reading post about yet another new edition of About Face released this year. Again, I rushed out to get my own copy. Cooper is obsoleting his own books at a frantic pace; it’s almost as bad as software. If, like me, you’re wondering what’s new in About Face 3, there’s a summary in the introduction:
- The book has been reorganized to present its ideas in a more easy-to-use reference structure. The book is divided into three parts: the first deals with process and high-level ideas about users and design, the second deals with high-level interaction design principles, and the third deals with lower-level interface design principles
- The first part describes the Goal-Directed Design process (pdf) in much greater detail than in the second edition, and more accurately reflects current practices at Cooper, including research techniques, the creation of personas, and how to use personas and scenarios to synthesize interaction design solutions.
- Throughout the book, we attempt to more explicitly discuss visual interface design concepts, methods and issues, as well as issues related to a number of platforms beyond the desktop.
- Terminology and examples in the book have been updated to reflect the current state of the art in the industry, and the text as a whole has been thoroughly edited to improve clarity and readability.
I’ll vouch for the readability improvement in text and layout — this is a much better designed book overall. Adding the third author has improved the book even more, definitively obsoleting the previous version. About Face 3 is the best edition of this classic yet. If you’ve never owned a copy, consider yourself lucky on two counts:
- You don’t have to waste money on old editions; you can start with the latest and best edition.
- You’re about to read one of the best books ever written on interaction design. Enjoy.
I envy the experience you’re about to have. For the rest of us, time to pony up the upgrade fee. Again.
If you like About Face, you’ll also enjoy Cooper’s The Inmates Are Running The Asylum. Originally released in 1999, it was similarly refreshed with a second edition in 2004. I own the first edition, so it looks like I’ll be upgrading, too.
“One of the most elegant, most influential and most groaned-about pieces of software in the history of computers is 20 years old. There won’t be a lot of birthday celebrations for PowerPoint; the program is one the world loves to mock almost as much as it loves to use.
While PowerPoint has served as the metronome for countless crisp presentations, it has also allowed an endless expanse of dimwit ideas to be dressed up with graphical respectability. And not just in conference rooms, but also in the likes of sixth-grade book reports and at PowerPointSermons.com.
As it happens, what might be called the downside of the culture of PowerPoint is something that bemuses, concerns and occasionally appalls PowerPoint’s two creators as much as it does everyone else.”
More at WSJ.
Garr Reynolds has a blog on presentation in general at Presentation Zen with posts like Contrasts in Presentation Style: Yoda vs. Darth Vader.
The best single source of PowerPoint commentary, pro and con, can be found at Robert Gaskin’s website (Robert is one of the creators of the original PowerPoint program).